Mason County News
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Family Ties
Wednesday, January 28, 2009 • Posted January 28, 2009

How do we catch salmonella? Food Safety Basics

I am back to work in Mason and Menard Counties (after 2 months off on maternity leave- baby Brooke and I are doing wonderfully!), so if you have a question or concern or you need a program, you can find me back at the Extension office. Usually I try to stick to this schedule: Monday,Wednesday, and Friday in Mason; and Tuesday and Thursday in Menard. The hot topic right now is the peanut butter/salmonella scare, so I thought I’d review this information from the Department of Health and Human Services with you. Don’t throw out your Jiff, Skippy, or even your store brand peanut butter- so far this scare only concerns the big industrial peanut butter tubs, like they use in nursing homes and cafeterias, and the products made from peanut paste in the factory, like crackers and cookies. For an up-to-the minute list of food recalls, check http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm before you eat processed foods that might have the bad peanut paste. It’s a searchable data base of the products that are affected. And keep up with that hand washing!

Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but any food, including vegetables, may become contaminated. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella. Food may also become contaminated by the hands of an infected food handler who did not wash hands with soap after using the bathroom.

Salmonella may also be found in the feces of some pets, especially those with diarrhea, and people can become infected if they do not wash their hands after contact with pets or pet feces. Reptiles, such as turtles, lizards, and snakes, are particularly likely to harbor Salmonella. Many chicks and young birds carry Salmonella in their feces. People should always wash their hands immediately after handling a reptile or bird, even if the animal is healthy. Adults should also assure that children wash their hands after handling a reptile or bird, or after touching its environment.

People should wash their hands after contact with animal feces. Because reptiles are particularly likely to have Salmonella, and it can contaminate their skin, everyone should immediately wash their hands after handling reptiles. Reptiles (including turtles) are not appropriate pets for small children and should not be in the same house as an infant. In the 1970s, small pet turtles were a common source of salmonellosis in the United States, so in 1975, the sale of small turtles was banned in this country. However, in 2008, they were still being sold, and cases of Salmonella associated with pet turtles have been reported. Salmonella carried in the intestines of chicks and ducklings contaminates their environment and the entire surface of the animal. Children can be exposed to the bacteria by simply holding, cuddling, or kissing the birds. Children should not handle baby chicks or other young birds. Everyone should immediately wash their hands after touching birds, including baby chicks and ducklings, or their environment.

Because foods of animal origin may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, or meat. Raw eggs may be unrecognized in some foods, such as homemade Hollandaise sauce, Caesar and other homemade salad dressings, tiramisu, homemade ice cream, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, and frostings. Poultry and meat, including hamburgers, should be well-cooked, not pink in the middle. Persons also should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other dairy products. Produce (fruits and vegetables) should be thoroughly washed.

Cross-contamination of foods should be avoided. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. Hands, cutting boards, counters, knives, and other utensils should be washed thoroughly after touching uncooked foods. Hand should be washed before handling food, and between handling different food items.

People who have salmonellosis should not prepare food or pour water for others until their diarrhea has resolved. Many health departments require that restaurant workers with Salmonella infection have a stool test showing that they are no longer carrying the Salmonella bacterium before they return to work.

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